Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Refugees

What follows will be brief as I am just getting to know individuals.

I want you to take a moment to conjure up your impressions.

  • What do you think/imagine when you hear the word 'refugees?'

  • Now imagine going to live with a 1/2 dozen or so. What further images come to you?

Eating, sleeping, bathing, socializing etc. in the same house?


I do not know about you, but for me there are aspects to certain images that might not be automatically appealing. So I arrived in the U.K ready to help out but not quite sure how it would be.

To preserve anonymity, names have been changed.


Zineddine - He is from Algeria. Tall, good looking with a ready smile, probably about 30. His family is home & he is here. For political reasons he cannot return. He is affable and easy to talk with. He enjoys a good laugh.

Amarion - Slim, average height, always helping out he is from Eritrea. Amarion always greets you with a smile. He is recovered from TB. He is a victim of torture as most are. Zelda explained the protocol in the cafe kitchen to me. The day Amarion was working there, he was making sure Zelda & I did it correctly. Often, apparently, we did not! His manner & approach are always to be helpful, not judgmental. He forever wears a baseball type cap with camouflage design.

Simplice from The Congo- He comes & goes almost non-stop. He was a student who joined a student protest of another student demonstration. Then the govenrment started to arrest students who had participated in any protests. They tortured some of them. Simplice then fled overland to the U.K. All the refugees look for work. It is difficult as they do not have proper ID yet. It can take a long time.

ImAn - is from Iran. A middle aged man, he could not be more polite. He told me stories of being beaten if he did not go to prayers. He made the mistake of going a protest march in his homeland. Now he too cannot go home.

Kalev - hails from a former Soviet Republic. He escaped as his father was Russian descent and when the U.S.S.R. broke apart, those with Russian heritage were persecuted. Now he is stuck in the U.K. as his former homeland is now a part of the EU and he cannot claim refugee status. Because his heritage is suspect, they will not give him a passport at home. Imagine.

Sohrab - also hails from Iran. I do not know his story as I see him little. He is very polite.

I hope what this conveys is two things:

1. It's easy to think generically when there is no face to a name, a category.

2. Imagine what it must be like to live:

- away from all family
- trying to live with no money
- no health care
- the constant possibility of being deported and then upon returning home being killed,
tortured, imprisoned .
- coming home each day to good people & a place to stay, BUT what do you do without much

May WE not only pray for them and peace in their native lands, but do something tangible today to help so many in need.


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Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.